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Everything you need to know about shipping and importing a car to New Zealand.

Shipping your car to New Zealand can be a bit of a process. Here's how to go about shipping or importing your car to New Zealand.
By · November 3, 2023
Everything you need to know about shipping and importing a car to New Zealand.

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Shipping your car to New Zealand can be a bit of a process. Whether you're a New Zealand citizen returning home, a first-time immigrant, or just want to bring your vehicle to this beautiful country, here's how to go about shipping or importing your car to New Zealand.

What to know before you begin

Before you can bring a car to New Zealand, it must be certified for entry. This step ensures your vehicle complies with New Zealand's strict rules and regulations and will ensure your vehicle is registered and licenced before it hits the road. Importing a vehicle can be quite complex, so we recommend using an ‘entry certifier’ to check whether your car can be imported.

While it's not mandatory to use an entry certifier, you’ll have the advantage of someone who can help you through the documentation and procedures. New Zealand requires several processes and documentation during the importation process. Without specific advice, you may get halfway through the process before discovering that your vehicle cannot be imported.

If you decide to do it yourself, you can still contact an entry certifier early on for initial guidance.

How long can a foreign car stay in New Zealand?

It depends on which process of importation you use. You can import a vehicle temporarily for up to 12 months if you reside in another country. However, most people will import a vehicle for permanent use. It’s worth knowing that once you import a vehicle, you cannot sell it or hire it out in the first 24 months after importation.

How do you import a car temporarily in New Zealand?

  • You must have a current registration for the vehicle in the country of origin

  • You can import vehicles, including motorbikes, temporarily to New Zealand

  • The vehicle must be exported from New Zealand within the temporary time frame

  • You cannot import a vehicle temporarily to sell it

  • If you want to avoid duty charges, you must have a Carnet de passages en douanes issued by AIT/FIA-affiliated member clubs

  • You can get a carnet from an Automobile Association or a Chamber of Commerce if the vehicle is being imported as a demonstration model

  • You’ll need to pay a cash deposit on entry which will be refunded when your vehicle is exported

  • Before the vehicle is released to you it needs to be inspected by MPI for a fee

  • Temporary vehicles are exempt from being registered in New Zealand

  • You will need to notify NZTA before you use the vehicle on the road and pay an ACC levy

What is involved in the entry certification process to import a car permanently?

The entry certification process requires documentation and inspections on your vehicle, including:

  • Inspection of your vehicle on arrival (V5).

  • Proving roadworthiness and passing a Warrant of Fitness.

  • Passenger cars must generally be right-hand drive.

  • Meeting an approved frontal impact standard.

  • Providing evidence of fuel consumption.

There are some exemptions for these and other more rigorous standards.

Exemptions for immigrant concession

If your vehicle is over 20 years old, considered a 'Special Interest' vehicle, or you're a returning New Zealand citizen or a first-time immigrant with permanent residency, you may be exempt from some regulations as long as you meet other criteria. To qualify for this exemption:

  • You must be a New Zealand citizen returning or have gained permanent residency.

  • You must have lived outside New Zealand for at least 21 months before returning.

  • Your vehicle must have been owned and registered for personal use for at least 12 months outside New Zealand.

  • Your vehicle can't be identified as an 'immigrant vehicle' for someone else.

  • Note that if your vehicle doesn't meet safety and emission standards, it must still meet general safety requirements.

  • Keep in mind that vehicles imported as 'immigrant vehicles' cannot be sold or used for hire in New Zealand for 24 months from registration.

To import and register a non-compliant vehicle, you'll need an entry certifier to identify your vehicle as an immigrant's vehicle during the entry certification inspection. If not, your vehicle won't be granted registration unless it meets all safety and emissions standards.

There are some additional rules you’ll need to follow. If your car is imported as an immigrant vehicle, your vehicle cannot be sold or used as a hire car for 24 months after the date it is registered in New Zealand.

How to prepare your car for biosecurity and inspection

Before shipping your vehicle, you’ll need to make sure it's been thoroughly cleaned. New Zealand has very strict biosecurity laws designed to keep pests, foreign plants and diseases out of the country.

All vehicles arriving in New Zealand have to go through a quarantine inspection by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). They will examine the interior and exterior for any signs of soil, plants, seeds, insects, or pests. If any issues are found, you'll have to pay for cleaning at an approved MPI decontamination facility. For this reason, we recommend getting your car professionally cleaned before it’s shipped.

What documentation is needed to ship a vehicle to New Zealand?

To ship your vehicle to New Zealand, you’ll need to provide a range of documents to your importer. These include:

  1. The vehicle's license document
  2. Your passport
  3. A valid road safety certificate from the country of origin

What charges are involved with shipping a vehicle to New Zealand?

After your car or vehicle arrives in New Zealand, you’ll have to pay shipping and receiving fees before you can claim your vehicle. There are also costs related to customs and quarantine clearance. Here's an overview of standard charges:

  • Port Charges for a container or roll-on-roll-off: $NZ475/$NZ290
  • Transport to warehouse and container unloading:$NZ450
  • Customs clearance: $NZ283.
  • NZTA Inspection for a container or roll-on roll-off: $NZ248/$228
  • Quarantine cleaning: Costs vary.
  • Fumigation for containers: $NZ295

Roll-on roll-off shipping is slightly cheaper as you don’t have to pay for a container to be fumigated or transported and unloaded at a warehouse. However, you’ll need to arrange for someone to pick up your vehicle from the ship. At Wise Move, we can help deliver your vehicle from the port to your door. Find expert car transportation services across New Zealand here.

Can I buy a car in New Zealand with a foreign passport?

Alternatively, you can buy a car in New Zealand with a foreign passport. Many people buy vehicles in New Zealand to travel. Reliable used Japanese cars can be as cheap as $NZ3,000.

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